>The longest day of the year / La journée la plus longue de l’an


Just as we did on the shortest day of 2008, we had lunch in the garden. This time the shadows were a bit shorter but the coffee was as good. / Comme la journée la plus courte de 2008 on a mangé au jardin. Cette fois les ombres étaient plus courtes mais le café est toujours bon.


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One of our Spanish friends in the village says that paella should be cooked out of doors on a wood fire. So that’s what we did today. / Une de nos amies espagnoles au village dit que la paella doit être cuire dehors au feu de bois. Donc, c’est ça que nous avons fait aujourd’hui.

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Paella with mussels and chorizo / Paella aux moules et au chorizo.

Locusts / acacia-criquets

There are some things I find in the garden that I don’t photograph for this blog. Yesterday when I saw a locust on one of our aubergine plants I didn’t rush for the camera. I called Lo Jardinièr to come and squash it. Last year one of these huge insects at most of the leaves of an aubergine plant in one afternoon. I don’t know how we can deter them. One suggestion on the Internet was a mixture of chilli and paraffin, so I ground a couple of red chillis and mixed them with alcool à bruler (a spirit you certainly wouldn’t want to drink). I then painted this mix onto some of the leaves.


I hope it works. I’m worried that it may damage the leaves.

** UPDATE: this burnt the leaves, so I won’t do it again. The best way to get rid of pests – locusts, beetles – is to squash them individually, we’ve found.

J’ai mis un mélange de piment rouge et alcool à bruler sur les feuilles d’aubergine dissueader les acacia-criquets de les manger.

And a butterfly / Et un papillon


Lo Jardinièr found this Red Admiral butterfly which stopped just long enough for him to take this photo.

Courgettes and cucumbers / Les courgettes et les concombres

It’s a nice problem to have – what can we do with all our courgettes? Yesterday we picked 1.7 kg. I’ve stuffed some with meat and some with olives and onions, I’ve stewed them with some of last year’s preserved tomatoes and we’ve had fried courgettes, courgette fritters and stuffed courgette flowers. Luckily, we really love courgettes! And the cucumbers seem to grow as you look at them.


Garlic grown from bulbs I bought in the market last autumn and planted around a terracotta pot watering system. / L’ail cultivé du ce que j’ai acheté sur le marché en automne.

And a sunflower in the sun / Et un tournesol au soleil.

>Kate’s visit / La visite de Kate


Our few days with the Vegetable Vagabond have passed incredibly quickly and now she has moved on to Mas du Diable. Its been wonderful to spend time with someone who is as excited as we are about our garden and about food and eating!

On Wednesday Kate was as eager as we were to go to the market. We bought squid and I made paella on the barbecue, adding our best green pepper, some haricots verts and some tomatoes from the garden.

Le séjour de la Vagabonde des Légumes est passé très vite et aujourdhui elle est partie au Mas du Diable. Cétait génial – passer du temps avec quelquune qui a autant denthousiasme que nous pour notre jardin, pour lalimentation et pour manger!

Mercredi Kate était aussi désireuse que nous daller au marché. Nous avons acheté des encornets et jai cuit une paella au barbecue. Jai ajouté notre meilleur poivron vert, des haricots verts et des tomates du jardin.

Kate planted the mizuna (Asian salad leaf) seedlings wed grown from seeds sent to us by Laura from Mas du Diable. Kate suggested putting them between the cabbages which shed also helped us plant out.

Kate a planté des plants de mizuna (salade dAsie) qui ont poussé des semis que Laura nous a envoyé. Kate a suggeré quils iraient bien parmi les choux quelle nous a aidé planter.

And when our neighbour unexpectedly gave us two cherry tree suckers Kate helped with planting those too.

Et quand notre voisine nous a donné deux petits guiniers Kate nous a aidé les planter aussi.

Membrillo / pâte de coing / quince paste

Kate worked in the kitchen too – the time had come to cook the quinces wed picked a few days before, so Kate cut up the fruit. We boiled the pieces in water until they were tender and then I put them through a mouli légumes to separate the fruit purée from the skins.

Kate a travaillé dans la cuisine aussi – le temps était arrivé pour cuire les coings que nous avions ramasser quelques jours avant, donc Kate les a coupé. Nous les avons fait cuire jusquà ce quils aient été tendre et puis je les ai passé par le mouli légumes pour séparer la purée de fruit de la peau.

We then added the same weight of sugar and simmered the purée until it darkened and thickened.

Puis nous avons ajouté le même poids de sucre et nous avons fait cuire à feu doux pour faire une purée sombre et épaisse.

Then I spread the purée in a layer about 1 cm thick on grease-proof paper in a baking tray and put it in a low oven (100° C) for a few hours. When it had dried I cut it in pieces about 10 cm x 10 cm. You can keep this for months, wrapped in grease-proof paper in a cool place. Its delicious with cheese.

Puis il faut létaler dune épaisseur de 1 cm sur du papier cuisson dans une plaque de four et la mettre au four très doux (100° C) pour quelques heures. Quand elle a seché, coupez-la en morceaux de 10 cm x 10 cm. On peut les garder pour quelques mois au frais, emballés dans le papier cuisson. Cest delicieux avec le fromage.

Olives and artichokes and Italian mussels / Olives et artichauts et moules à litalienne

On Kates last evening with us I thought she should eat olives and artichokes!

La dernière soirée de la visite de Kate, jai pensé quelle a dû manger des olives et des artichauts!

But first we had oysters from Bouzigues and a glass of Picpoul de Pinet, the white wine made nearby which goes perfectly with oysters.

D’abord on a mangé des huitres de Bouzigues avec un verre de Picpoul de Pinet, le vin blanc qui accompagne parfaitement les huitres.

Then Kate made one of her favourite mussel dishes – delicious Italian mussels (recipe here).

Puis Kate a préparé un de ses plats de moules favoris – moules à l
italienne (recette ici) – delicieux!

Weve enjoyed our few days with Kate enormously and weve got so much out of it. Weve all spent the time talking about gardening and food, and about writing about gardening and food – all so important for Kate, Lo Jardinièr and me. Weve exchanged ideas, laughed, eaten, persuaded Kate to try the local wine as well as her favourite limoncello and got to know each other really well. We even managed a swim in the sea – Kates first in the Mediterranean. Her trip was a great idea and it is linking all of us food-growing bloggers – Ian of Kitchen Garden in France brought her here, so weve met him too, and now shes gone on to Mas du Diable, taking some of the quince paste we made to Laura. Oh, and I mustnt finish without mentioning the wine Ian brought us from Perigord, made by his friend Bernard, Clos de Castelau 2005, a lovely warm Bergerac red, a bottle of which weve already enjoyed with Kate.

Kate has written about her stay in Gabian, as well as the rest of her trip, on Hills and Plains Seedsavers.

Olives update

A couple of weeks ago I was worried that our olives were damaged and afraid that we might have an infestation of Dacus olea. Talking to friends about their olives which also have small marks on the skins and are ripening, I realised that what we had was hail damage from the storm at the beginning of September. This means the olives aren’t as pretty as they should be, but they’ll be fine to eat – all 36 of them!

We’ll be harvesting them soon.

PS Waste not ….

I saved the water we’d boiled the quinces in because it looked good and the friend who had given us the quinces had said you could use it to make jam. There was about a litre of it and I simply added a kilo of sugar and simmered until it was reduced to a thick dark red syrup. This made two jars and a leftover bowl full of quince jelly. We tried it tonight with some St Nectaire fermier cheese and it was lovely.

>Lazy Sunday


Our favourite way of spending Sunday is in the garden, with friends, family or on our own, cooking and eating a long slow lunch and doing a few of the jobs that need doing – watering, harvesting, nothing too strenuous. This is what we did today.

Sundried chilli peppers and aubergines

I threaded the ripe chilli peppers onto two strings, as I did last year, and hung them from a beam in the sunniest place in the garden. This beam is intended to support our grape vine when it grows a bit bigger, but in the meantime its a good place to dry vegetables. The chilli peppers should take about a week to dry – some of them are quite big. Were only just finishing the ones I dried last year, so they keep well for at least a year.

Today I decided to try drying aubergine, something I havent done before. I sliced an aubergine thinly, into slices about 2 mm thick, laid them out on kitchen paper and sprinkled them with salt. Twenty minutes or so later the salt had drawn out a lot of the moisture. I threaded the slices using a needle and thread, tying a knot around each one to keep them apart and hung the strings from the same beam as the chillies. A few hours of hot sun later and they were already quite dry – I expect them to be completely dry in a day or so.

Threading the chillies and aubergine slices takes quite some time, but it seemed a nice restful job for Sunday in the garden and I enjoyed doing it. I hope drying the aubergine works as it will be a good way to store them.

There are many Spanish people living in Gabian – in fact when you go to the shops or the market youre almost as likely to hear a conversation in Spanish as in French – so were lucky enough to be able to buy paella rice, Spanish white beans, paella spices and so on in the little local shop just round the corner from our house. For lunch today I made a paella:

Chicken Paella

(for 4 people)

Chicken pieces (I used the large chicken legs we can buy in our local shop, poulet fermier or free-range chicken, cut into smaller pieces)

1 large courgette, roughly chopped

1 red chilli pepper, finely chopped

green beans

1 large onion, sliced

3 cloves garlic, chopped

some small pieces of chorizo

100 gm cooked white haricot-type beans (optional)

a few threads of saffron (I cheat a bit and use the sachets of Spanish spices we can buy here, which contain saffron and powdered rosemary, but I add rosemary from the garden too)

2 sprigs of rosemary

1 large cup of rice

the juice of 1 lemon

2 tomatoes, chopped

salt and pepper

Fry the chicken pieces in olive oil in a large frying pan or paella pan for about 40 minutes until cooked through. Remove from the pan. Sauté the onion and courgette until soft. Add garlic and chilli pepper for a few moments and put the chicken pieces back in the pan with the vegetables. Add the spices and the rice and stir to coat with the oil. Add water, lemon juice and chopped tomatoes – there should be about three times the volume of the rice, but you may need to add more water later if it evaporates. Add the green beans cut into short pieces. Bring to the boil and leave to simmer. Unlike risotto, paella must not be stirred. When the rice is almost cooked add the pieces of chorizo and the white beans. When its ready put the pan on the table and let people help themselves.

I cooked this over a charcoal fire on the barbecue. It can be cooked on a wood fire or on a gas or electric hob too.

Terracotta pot update

The haricots verts (French beans) which I sowed around the terracotta pots are growing well. A couple of weeks ago I was worried that they were only producing leaves, not flowers, and that maybe they were getting too much water! Now, though, they are flowering well and well be picking beans from them in a few days time. The plants are much bigger than the previous row we sowed and watered in the conventional way – Im sure this is due to the terracotta pot system, which really seems to work.

Ananas tomatoes

This year for the first time weve grown a variety of tomatoes called Ananas (pineapple). The fruits are very big. Theyre a bit mishapen but inside the flesh is deliciously sweet, mango coloured with flecks of red. It looks – and almost tastes – like a fruit salad!

>August harvest

>August is such a wonderful time of the year in the garden. The tomatoes, peppers and aubergines are all established and growing well. They need to be watered every day, but otherwise the main work is the harvesting. Our friends arrive to spend their holidays with us and we spend hours, long evenings, lazy lunchtimes eating meals in the garden with them. We’ve set up our various irrigation systems so that the garden is watered while we do other things – like eating. So the following is just a taste of the last few days here.


On Sunday we went to Salasc market and bought olives, pickled garlic and tapenade from this lovely stall:

Seafood paella

We ate seafood and green pepper paella cooked over charcoal in the garden: encornets (squid), onions, sliced green peppers, garlic, sautéed in olive oil. Add paprika, saffron, rosemary, salt, pepper, paella rice, lemon juice, chopped tomato, water to cover. Simmer in a wide paella pan until the rice is cooked. Add mussels for the last couple of minutes.

Aubergine dip

Another evening I made an aubergine dip:

Bake a whole aubergine or two small ones in the oven until soft. Peel and put the flesh in a blender with a spoonful of honey, garlic, paprica, mint, salt, pepper and olive oil, until smooth. Add lemon juice and serve with slices of cucumber, green pepper or other raw vegetables. We opened a bottle of chilled muscat sec from Domaine des Pascales in Gabian to go with this.

And every day we pick more than we can possibly eat, of tomatoes, aubergines, peppers, cucumbers, courgettes ….